Colin Gray: In Sickness And In Health
The Parents is a photographic series featuring Colin Gray’s folks. It officially began in 1980, but Glasgow-based Gray started taking pictures of his mum and dad when he was a mere five-year-old boy. His obsession with documenting family occasions developed into an extensive body of work using his parents as his subjects who acted out characters in staged dramas.
One of his most iconic works, ‘Hull Under Water’, depicts his parents enacting being under water in their living room in Hull, with plastic cling film representing the surface of the water. Their brilliant sense of humour segues into something more poignant in the last stages of The Parents. In Sickness and in Health is the final chapter in this series, and documents his mother’s illness, his father’s role as her carer and her death in 2004, capturing her final portrait – at peace in a coffin.
A large collection of images fills two rooms in the gallery. The rather serious documentation dealing with illness and death is interspersed with playful images of the mundane, transforming these into beautifully textured and detailed interpretations.
Upon starting a new generation of images in which Gray now uses his own children as subjects, he reflects on The Parents and says: ‘Looking at myself in the mirror I see a reflection of my father’s face. I see the history in my own future. This is a curious and rather frightening experience.’ It is simultaneously a personal investigation for the artist and a profoundly disparate experience for the viewer.
Street Level Gallery, Glasgow, until Sun 23 Jan